The Judgment Altar and Witches Well
Bored and looking for something to do I downloaded the Weird NJ app on my phone. Doing a search of things in my area I came across the Judgment Altar and Witches Well in Mount Holly, NJ which is maybe fifteen minutes away from where I live.
I have been to the Judgment Altar before with a friend MANY years ago but I have never seen the Witches Well. This sparked my interest, even more, to go back and find this place.
I went on YouTube and did a search and found a couple videos of people at the Well and Altar. The only problem was they did not show you how to get to them. Even with the little knowledge, I had of where the place was, I was determined to find it the next day.
The next afternoon when I got out of work I headed down to Mount Holly which was just down the road from where I was working at the time. I went to the cemetery in town where I remember going to with my friend.
I turned on the Weird NJ app and it showed me that the entrance I wanted was in the back corner of the cemetery. After spending thirty minutes looking I could not find it. I texted my friend and he confirmed what the app said. I looked for another 10 minutes and still nothing.
I called my brother who was home and he looked on google to see if he could find the entrance for me. He told me there was, two other entrances nearby. He gave me the street name of the side road that led to the entrance of “The Mount” of Mount Holly, NJ.
The Judgment Alter
After going up the trail and making a right I fount the Judgment Altar. If I recall correctly the last time I was up here some kids sprayed graffiti on it. Thankfully now it was all clean and looking good.
The weirdest things there was some benches that were on the side of the trail and in front of the altar itself. They were all knocked over except for two.
I tried to straighten one up but it was heavier than I expected, so I was thinking that kids may have knocked them over and not the wind.
Then I found some old flowers along with some beer bottles and trash behind the Altar.
After spending some time at the altar taking pictures I followed the trail a little more looking for the Witches Well. The trail led me to the cemetery that I was at over an hour ago. I was able to see where they fenced off a trail that led from there to the altar.
They must have blocked it off to keep people from going into the cemetery at night from the trails. The cemetery is in bad shape with knocked over and broken headstones so that may have been the reason for the fence.
After following the trail a little more I have yet to find the Witches Well.
Hunt for The Witches Well
Going back the way I came in I was about to give up on finding the Well. I tried another trail and still no sight of it. Online I read that it was only a few hundred feet from the Altar, but they did not specify in which direction.
On my way back from the second trail I saw something on the ground that caught my attention. I saw an arrow in the dirt pointing the way back to my car. I know it was not there when I came in or when I crossed that area to the other trail. I did not see any other person up there with me at the time.
Was it something I missed? Or was it something or someone telling me to go away?
Being the adventurer I ignored it and went down one more trail. I soon realized this trail also had an entrance at the end of it that led to the main street heading into Mount Holly. So now I know of three entrances to the area, but still no Witches Well.
Having been there for a couple hours and seeing a storm approaching I was about to give up on the Well and head out. On the way back to the entrance I came in I saw some houses and noticed a fenced off area. That’s when I noticed a brick building behind a bunch of trees.
I started to head up to the brick building that I saw and noticed that there was all kinds of chicken wire and small fencing that was ankle and knee height. It appears that either the township or the people that live right near it have set these out to keep people away.
Luckily since I am tall I was able to step over the fencing fairly easily and get closer. It was hard to see and even harder to get a picture of it due to the tree cover but I did manage to get a couple. I did not stay there too long, I did not want the people living there to call the police if I was trespassing.
While I was at the Well I wanted to find these cameras that I heard about in the YouTube videos I watched. In the video when they got close to the fence, the camera’s flash popped and a voice recording came on saying “stop this is a restricted area, and your photograph was just taken. We will use it prosecute you. Leave the area now”.
I did find one of the cameras, but I could not get close enough to make it go off. By the look of it, I do not think its a real working camera, but a deterrent to keep people from jumping the fence to get closer to the Well.
I plan to go back out there maybe in the fall to see if I can get a better picture of the Well when all the leaves have fallen from the trees. Plus my photography has grown leaps and bounds since that time too so I want to get some better pictures of both the Altar and Well.
There are a few different stories about the area especially the Well. The structure you see in the pictures that I took are supposedly over the top of the Well to keep people from falling in.
This story is that a woman living in Mount Holly was arrested and tried for the practice of witchcraft and was thrown down the Well. She did not die from the fall and started screaming, scratching and punching the walls of the Well.
After a few days, the screaming had stopped and the people of Mount Holly figured she had finally passed away. Not long after they thought she had died the noises started again but it was more of a ghostly sound and less human. So they build the structure presently around the structure to keep the noises locked away.
The other story is that the people of Mount Holly caught the Jersey Devil, put him in chains, and threw him down the Well. Then they built the structure around the Well to keep the Jersey Devil trapped and to keep people from letting him out.
Judgment Altar Story:
Though this is not a story about the Well, but of the Altar and it turns out to be a hoax.
On October 22, 1730, the paper Pennsylvania Gazette ran a story of a witch trial in Mount Holly, NJ. In it two people a man and woman we being tried as witches in front of 300 onlookers.
The charges included “making their neighbours sheep dance in an uncommon manner, and with causing hogs to speak, and sing Psalms, &c. to the great terror and amazement of the King’s good and peaceable subjects in this province.”
The accused were put through trials of being weighted against a Bible and tied up to be tossed into a body of water.
It came out later that it looks like the article was a hoax made up by Benjamin Franklin who at the time was the owner and publisher of the Pennsylvania Gazette.
It does make sense that it was a hoax since the last witch trial in North America was in 1706 when Grace Sherwood was put on trial in Virgina Beach.
Here are a couple links to a site talking about the hoax.
I can not wait to get back to this site again and take some more pictures.
holy holy holyThe words Holy Holy Holy on the altar. Last time I was here kids painted on the altar but it looks like someone cleaned it up.
BenchesThere are benches all around the altar now but they were all knocked on their backs except for two.
White OakAlso came across this sign that says White Oak. Must have been for people hiking the area that wanted to know what type of trees they are.
Witches WellIt's hard to see but there is a small fence leading to the one house below so I couldn't get too much closer so I got one shot of the whole building before leaving. Might go back in the fall so I can try this shot again without the trees covering up so much of it.
Mount Holly (Images of America)(Amazon)
A Walking Tour of Mount Holly, New Jersey (Look Up, America!)(Amazon)
Ghosts of Mount Holly:: A History of Haunted Happenings (Haunted America)(Amazon)
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Also published on Medium.